The yield and quality of fresh and ensiled plant material from intercropped maize (Zea mays) and beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

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Abstract

An investigation was carried out in the UK to determine whether intercropping with Phaseolus vulgaris beans increases the yield and nutritional quality of maize forage. Fresh and dry yields arising from different sowing dates and different densities of the two species were evaluated, with total nitrogen concentration (TNC) of the plants, and crude protein concentration (CPC), dry matter, metabolizable energy (ME), pH and starch, lactic acid and ash contents of ensiled material. Highest biomass yields of intercrops were obtained when the two species were planted simultaneously. There was a higher TNC in intercropped maize plants than in maize plants grown without beans (P < 0.05). Biomass yields were not significantly higher with a higher density of maize in the intercrop than with a lower density, nor were they higher with monocrop maize than with intercropping. However, the biomass had higher CPC at 75 000 maize plus 50 000 beans ha−1 and 50 000 maize plus 50 000 beans ha−1 than monocrop maize. Other nutritional characteristics of the silage made from the intercrop treatments were not significantly different from those of the silage made from monocrop maize. As the silage from intercrops of 75 000 maize plus 50 000 beans ha−1 and 50 000 maize plus 50 000 beans ha−1 gave more CP per land area than monocrop silage, and gave biomass yields that were not significantly different from monocrop maize, it was concluded that such intercropping is suitable for producing high-quality silage under similar agro-climatic conditions. Copyright © 2007 Society of Chemical Industry

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